liz_marcs (liz_marcs) wrote,

This Shouldn't Make Sense, But it Does: The Cute Cat Theory

Ethan Zuckerman (who really is fascinating guy doing fascinating international work...really, click his name to read his bio) has proffered The Cute Cat Theory of Digital Activism.

What is The Cute Cat Theory of Digital Activism?

The short answer?

People like cute cats. People love looking at pictures of cute cats. People adore posting pictures of their cute cats. Internet companies come up with all kind of tools to make it easier for people to post pictures of their cute cats and for people to look at pictures of those cute cats. Those same tools will then be co-opted by political activists of all stripes to communicate their message.

The entire article is a fantastic read, and following the multiple links will yield some great rewards as well as food for thought. It took me several days to explore every facet of what Mr. Zuckerman had to say and it was well worth the time.

[Not to blow my own horn here, but Yours Truly has been circling this idea myself, only using online fandom as the base of the activist network. Less than a week later, the infamous LiveJournal Strikethrough of 2007 occurred.

However, Zuckerman is a much smarter guy than I am and has been doing this networking thing professionally for years, and doing it in some pretty damn remote global areas. Plus, "posting pictures of cute cats" is a much more complete and accessible theory. Not a surprise, since he really is the expert here.]

Here's a little bit of a taste of what Zuckerman has to say:

With web 2.0, we’ve embarced the idea that people are going to share pictures of their cats, and now we build sophisticated tools to make that easier to do. as a result, we’re creating a wealth of tech that’s extremely helpful for activists. There are twin revolutions going on - the ease of creating content and the ease of sharing it with local and global audiences.

(snipping some fascinating discussion between the paragraphs)

Blocking banal content on the internet is a self-defeating proposition. It teaches people how to become dissidents - they learn to find and use anonymous proxies, which happens to be a key first step in learning how to blog anonymously. Every time you force a government to block a web 2.0 site - cutting off people’s access to cute cats - you spend political capital. Our job as online advocates is to raise that cost of censorship as high as possible.

The entire article discusses how the evolution of tools for mundane things that even the most oppressive government cannot object to can be coopted and used by determined activists agitating for political change in their countries. It also discusses new and improved censorship measures (most notably China) that countries are using to "filter out" this coopted use.

Go. Read. Digest.

Then apply it to yourself. The only way anything's going to change is if we do it our own damn selves.

And that's maybe the point.

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